Review by horror_spooky
Even the Bluest Dragons Shine...
Finally, a truly classic RPG experience for the 360. One of the major flaws of the original Xbox was the fact that it was basically void of any really old-school role-playing games, but thankfully, Microsoft is fixing this on the Xbox 360 by bringing us this classic and fun (but a letdown at some points) RPG for the next-generation.
Blue Dragon, not to much surprise, plays like most RPGs: it is turn-based. Some gamers have greatly criticized the turn-based system, citing that it doesn't make sense or it makes the game boring, but Blue Dragon tries to mix things up a bit, and it succeeds. There is a bar at the top of the screen that shows you when everyone's turn is going to occur. If you want to charge a move or a spell, but if you charged it to its full power the enemy would get to go before you, you can charge it to just behind the enemy's marker, and actually get to go first, albeit with less power. I found this system to be amazing, but for the first eight hours or so, not even very necessary.
Yeah, you'll have to really play Blue Dragon in order to enjoy it. You can't just pick the game up and expect to be satisfied, which is usually the case for every role-playing game around.
What is the cinch? What is the one thing that makes Blue Dragon stand out from its competition? Shadows. Probably the coolest thing in the whole game are the Shadows, giant blue beasts that are part of your character, that you use to attack. These Shadows are so amazing simply because the give the game a true anime-feel, something the developers were going for. You'll have problems putting the game down just because you have a craving to see and test out the next Shadow you get.
I've mentioned magic, and since Blue Dragon really tries to be old-school, there is obviously black magic and white magic, with the ability to change classes at any time you're not in a battle to suit your needs. The black magic moves are pretty amazing, but some of them look too much of the same for my taste. The white magic is the generic white magic you see in nearly all RPGs, and there really isn't anything to mention there.
Did the previous paragraph remind anyone of Final Fantasy III for the DS? Changing classes and stuff in Blue Dragon really gave me nostalgia for Final Fantasy III. There isn't as wide of variety of classes to choose from, however, and some of the classes are totally useless. It's nearly impossible to win battles if you change the character's default classes too drastically because they will already be powered on that certain class. In my opinion, the game could have done without the class system, which I find as almost a flaw in RPGs. However, one class I would like to mention is the Sword Master class, which the protagonist and primary character, Shu, has as his default class. The Sword Master moves are probably the coolest, even though they all look the same (one move greatly resembles the move Rasengan from the Naruto franchise!).
What a minute, what about weapons to give to your characters? Oddly, Blue Dragon doesn't allow for this feature, which really doesn't make a difference to me because I think that fighting with the Shadows is much more awesome. However, the game isn't totally void of customizing your characters. There are various "accessories" that you can equip on your characters to raise their HP, MP, defense, offense, and complete various other needs, like special protection against certain types of attacks. Trust me, these things come in handy.
How would you come across accessories, though? Well, you can either scavenge the land for them, or you could do the easier thing and buy them. Obviously, being an RPG, Blue Dragon has shops. At these shops you can buy spells, the previously mentioned accessories, and healing items. I would like to note that with the healing items, the developers weren't that original and blatantly ripped-off the Final Fantasy games (Phoenix Talon, come ON!).
Something that may be come as a relief to some gamers, but a disappointment to many, is the fact that Blue Dragon borrows its battle system from the Mario RPG titles on Nintendo's systems in the respect that you actually see what you're up against roaming around on the field instead of being thrown into random battles. This gives you the opportunity to attack enemies first and things like that, but getting "back-attacks" I found to be on the verge of impossible. The one thing I hate about seeing the enemies before you fight them is that, for some reason, it makes level-grinding even less enjoyable than it already is! On a positive note, you won't really need to level-grind all that much in Blue Dragon if you become relatively skilled at the battle system and find the right items and spells.
One thing that some gamers may find interesting about getting into battles is the ability to make the enemies actually fight each other during the battle. This is done by using a large circle that appears around Shu while on the world map. If two enemies of conflicting types are in the circle you can choose to have them attack each other when the battle begins. However, if they are of the same type, then you fight both of them right in a row without getting a chance to heal outside of battle. I rarely ever used this feature, simply because I found it unnecessary and sort of...well...stupid.
One of my main complaints in turn-based RPGs are the enemies that have moves that take like twenty seconds to complete, and having to fight a ton of them at once. Blue Dragon has its share of these VERY irritating battles, and I really wish that RPG developers would knock it off. It doesn't make the game any harder, it just makes the game less of a joy to play and way more annoying.
What else could there be? Well, there are some instances where you will have to quickly mash on a button to complete certain objectives, but I really wish that the developers had ditched that idea and took more of a Sly Cooper-approach to it all by making you play a mini-game like the ones in the Sly Cooper games (which were amazing).
Ah, the save system. One thing that usually turns me off with RPGs is when an RPG relies solely on its saving system and has no checkpoints, which can really, really be a pain in the ass. Thankfully, Blue Dragon actually has a checkpoint system, which makes the game way more enjoyable than most RPGs are. There are save points, in the form of blue cubes, and you can save while not in a battle or out in the field at any time you want to.
How can you get around so quickly, though? Well, the answer to that would be Warp Keys. You use these Warp Keys to activate devices around the world in order to warp to them. However, there are some cases where warping is impossible and thus you are trapped in that certain area (which can be a VERY big pain if you didn't know what was going to happen and buying healing items totally blew your mind).
I don't know how long it has been since I've played a multi-disc RPG...it was probably Final Fantasy IX on the original PlayStation if I remember right. Yes, and some RPG fans may rejoice at this, Blue Dragon is a three-disc game. I always found that multi-disc games made me want to play more, simply to see where the cut-off point of disc 1 and disc 2 were, and Blue Dragon is no exception (and each disc is around ten hours long, too).
While reading other reviews for Blue Dragon, I found most of the negativity was directed at the story. I drastically disagree with those statements. I found the story to be loveable, and it felt very much like an anime, which was the developer's goal. Though it does become hard at times to care what's going on with the characters and the plot twists are very few, the game's story will keep you gripped, and there is just the right amount of cut-scenes, not too many and not too little, to make sure the story doesn't actually come to bore you.
Akira Toriyama designed the characters for Blue Dragon, and he did a magnificent job if I do say so myself. Any fan of Toriyama's work should play Blue Dragon simply because the art style is so loveable. There are even some cameos of characters from Toriyama's prevoius works. However, there were some points while walking around where the game became extremely blury for some reason, and this was a major strain on my eyes. The cut-scenes aren't as beautiful as they could be on the Xbox 360, but they don't disappoint either.
Sadly, the music for Blue Dragon isn't as great as it should be. With most RPGs the tune usually gets to the point where it is permanently jammed into your brain, but Blue Dragon's music just doesn't get that far. I'm not saying it's bad, it's just not as overwhelming as I had expected it to be. The voice-acting, though cheesy, is great, but you'll have to get used to it because Shu's voice just seems a little out of place with him (maybe it's because it's the same voice character that voiced Izzy on Digimon: Digital Monsters and I'm used to that, I don't know).
Since Blue Dragon is an RPG there is about zero replayability after you complete the game one time through. However, the game is sufficiently long to keep you busy for a decent amount of time, so Blue Dragon becomes the perfect game to rent.
Most 360 owners are starved of truly amazing RPG experiences and are force-fed poor ones, but Blue Dragon is not only one of the best RPGs on the 360, but one of the best RPGs of all time. It is a very addicting game, but it does get somewhat frustrating at times. It's not as hard as most classic RPGs due to the checkpoint system, which is a god send. If the game had some sort of mini-games or multiplayer mode for replayability, that would've raised its score greatly, and if the audio was a little bit better and the graphics improved just slightly more, Blue Dragon could have very well been the perfect RPG.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Blue Dragon (US, 08/28/07)
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